'Airplane!' Movie & 'Show People' + Nuremberg Trials & Rare Classics

Airplane movie Robert Hays
Robert Hays in Airplane!

'Airplane!' movie cast at Academy screening

The 1980 Airplane! movie writers/directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, and actor Robert Hays will be among those attending the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' screening of the juvenile comedy at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 19, 2006, at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Academy Governor and producer Hawk Koch, whose father's company produced the Airplane! movie, will serve as host and will moderate a conversation with the film's cast and crew.

Besides spoofing the (mostly) popular all-star Airport movies of the '70s, Airplane! also makes fun of the original all-star (near-)disaster movie: William A. Wellman's 1954 aviation melodrama The High and the Mighty, which featured Robert Stack, John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Laraine Day, Phil Harris, David Brian, and Robert Newton, among others.

Starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Seberg, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Dana Wynter, and Maureen Stapleton, George Seaton's blockbuster Airport was the only movie in the franchise to achieve a certain degree of prestige, eventually earning a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.

Of note, the sequence featuring the sick girl in Airplane! lampoons similar stuff that takes place in the inaptly titled Airport 1975 (a 1974 release), with The Exorcist's Linda Blair as the girl. In this Airport sequel, Charlton Heston is a ground controller, while Karen Black plays a flight attendant-turned-pilot.

'Airplane!' movie cast

Besides Robert Hays, the Airplane! movie features Julie Hagerty, Lorna Patterson, Stephen Stucker, Frank Ashmore, Jonathan Banks, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in addition to veterans Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Billingsley, The High and the Mighty's Robert Stack, and, in a brief cameo, Ethel Merman.

Tickets for the Airplane! movie are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information call 310-247-3600.

Robert Hays Airplane! movie photo: Paramount Pictures.

'Show People': Marion Davies & William Haines + eight-decade-plus veteran organist Bob Mitchell at Echo Park Film Center screening

Next Thursday, May 4, at the Echo Park Film Center (website), Tom Barnes will present his 8mm print of King Vidor's classic 1928 comedy Show People, starring Marion Davies and William Haines, and featuring live musical accompaniment by veteran organist Bob Mitchell. “If any of you don't know Bob,” says Barnes, “he's been a staple at the Silent Movie Theater since the Larry Austin days; Larry Austin used to introduce him as 'an original,' because he started accompanying silent movies in 1924!” (Image: Marion Davies publicity shot ca. 1928.)

Show People is going to be part of a double bill. The “lower-half” will be Maurice Tourneur's A Girl's Folly a.k.a. A Movie Romance, a 30-minute 1917 comedy about the early days of moviemaking, and starring popular leading lady Doris Kenyon and Robert Warwick.

For the Show People / A Girl's Folly screening there will be a “requested donation,” i.e., a fee, of $10 to help pay for Bob Mitchell's services and to benefit the Echo Park Film Center, a non-profit organization offering free classes in filmmaking to teenagers and senior citizens.

Marion Davies & William Haines topline extensive 'Show People' cast

Inspired by Gloria Swanson's movie career, Show People stars a hilarious Marion Davies as Hollywood hopeful Peggy Pepper and William Haines as her (initially funny, later obnoxious) boyfriend/pal. Also in the Show People cast: Dell Henderson, Harry Gribbon, Paul Ralli, Albert Conti, Polly Moran, Rolf Sedan, Bert Roach, and cameos by King Vidor, Robert Z. Leonard, Harry Crocker, Lew Cody, and Charles Chaplin.

Show People's legendary MGM commissary shot features the following stars: Marion Davies, Polly Moran, Leatrice Joy (who, according to the IMDb, can also be seen in A Girl's Folly), Norma Talmadge, Renée Adorée, William S. Hart, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, Mae Murray, Rod La Rocque, Aileen Pringle, Claire Windsor, Estelle Taylor, George K. Arthur, Karl Dane, Dorothy Sebastian, in addition to gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

'Judgment at Nuremberg': All-Star Nazi Trials

Some critics have dismissed Judgment at Nuremberg as sentimental Hollywood claptrap, but Mr. Contrarian here finds it the best 1961 American film I've seen.

Director Stanley Kramer manages to sustain interest in the lengthy proceedings - the film runs 186 minutes - and, even if events and situations are at times overly simplified, Kramer and screenwriter Abby Mann do bring a large degree of complexity to the thorny (and still quite relevant) issues of war crimes, personal responsibility for one's actions, and human stupidity and cowardice.

The generally outstanding cast includes Spencer Tracy, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland.

Judgment at Nuremberg will be screened as the next installment in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated, Part Three.” It will be shown on Monday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Press Release:

The 1961 Best Picture nominee Judgment at Nuremberg will be screened as the next installment in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated, Part Three.” The film, directed by Stanley Kramer, will be shown on Monday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Set in a German courthouse, presided over by three American judges, Judgment at Nuremberg focuses on the trial of four judges accused of using their offices to enforce Nazi sterilization and cleansing policies. The film earned 11 Academy Award® nominations and took home Oscars® for Actor (Maximilian Schell) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Abby Mann). Judgment at Nuremberg earned Kramer his second nomination for Directing and his fourth for Best Picture. Though he did not win in either category, Kramer was honored at that year's ceremony with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Other nominations for the film include Actor (Spencer Tracy), Actor in a Supporting Role (Montgomery Clift), Actress in a Supporting Role (Judy Garland), Art Direction – Black-and-White (Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad; Set Decoration: George Milo), Cinematography – Black-and-White (Ernest Laszlo), Costume Design – Black-and-White (Jean Louis) and Film Editing (Frederic Knudtson).

The film's Oscar®-winning screenwriter Abby Mann and the widow of Stanley Kramer, Karen Sharpe Kramer, will attend the screening.

The evening's commemorative program will feature black-and-white photos from Judgment at Nuremberg on the cover.

Passes for “Great To Be Nominated, Part Three” are still available at a cost of $30 for film buffs wishing to see the rest of the series. Tickets for each individual screening may be purchased at a cost of $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid I.D. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call 310-247-3000, ext. 111.

Last Remaining Seats: Experiencing Classics on the Big Screen

In late spring/early summer, the Los Angeles Conservancy will present the 20th edition of the film series Last Remaining Seats. As usual, all screenings will be held at old film palaces located in downtown Los Angeles:

Wed., May 31 - The Mark of Zorro (1940), directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone. This is by far the best Zorro I've seen, and Power is surprisingly effective both as the dashing, masked swordsman and as his dandified, unmasked self. A must.

Wed., June 7 - A Star Is Born (1954), directed by George Cukor, and starring Judy Garland and James Mason. Some find it one of the best Hollywood movies ever made. I find it overlong (175 minutes) and inferior to the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March (which will be shown at UCLA on April 28). Garland, however, is excellent, and a couple of the production numbers are quite good.

Wed., June 14 - Never Weaken (1921) and Hot Water (1924). Both are Harold Lloyd vehicles. The former is a 19-minute short, the latter is a feature in which Lloyd must cope with the institution of marriage and its consequences: in-laws. I haven't seen either film, so I'll keep my opinionated mouth shut for a change.

Wed., June 21 - Chinatown (1974), directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. Robert Towne's taut screenplay, Polanski's merciless direction, and Nicholson's unusually restrained performance elevate this neo-film noir (shot in somewhat muted color) to the level of a masterpiece.

Wed., June 28 - Dos tipos de cuidado / Two Careful Fellows (1953), directed by Ismael Rodríguez, and starring Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, and Carmelita González. Since this film series is being held in heavily Mexican downtown Los Angeles, it is only fair to add an example of Mexican filmmaking to the mix. In this melodramatic-comedy (as per the press release), Infante and Negrete - in their only film together - play two friends at odds with each other because of their mutual affection for González.

Wed., July 7 - Rebel Without a Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. Generally considered a classic of its kind, I find Ray's youth-in-angst melodrama overblown and poorly acted. Dean, in particular, overdoes his brooding teen bit - perhaps as a means to compensate for the fact that he looks much too old for the part.

Now, a chance to watch those films - however good or not so good - at an old movie palace is not to be missed. I've seen three of the six features on the big screen (at the old Vista Theater or at the Nuart), and they looked great.

(In case you're wondering. . . I've seen Zorro only on television.)

Cinesation: Rare Classics & Cult Movies Return

Cinesation 2006 has on its website a few of the titles that will be screened at this year's festival.

Among those are rarities such as Robert Z. Leonard's 1917 melodrama A Mormon Maid, starring his future wife Mae Murray and Hobart Bosworth, which is thus described: “A young woman and her family are attacked by Indians but are saved by a Mormons [sic] traveling to Utah. The plot thickens as suicide, polygamy and love enter the picture along with the Avenging Angels, a band of masked Mormon militiamen who leave our stars in the desert to die! Live or die, the Mormons might have some explaining to do.” If this sounds outlandish, that's because you've probably never read the synopses of Mae Murray's other films. . .

Also on the schedule is the newly restored version of the 1926 Norma Talmadge comedy Kiki (directed by Clarence Brown), in which Talmadge - one of the most popular movie stars of the 1920s - co-stars with Ronald Colman. (Actually, Colman was a “leading man” in those days, so his name probably appears below the title in this one.)

Note: The website says that few Talmadge films survive, but that isn't true. Few are available for viewing - they're being held at the Library of Congress and other institutions - but the Talmadge film survival rate, especially from the 1920s, is - relatively speaking - quite good. (Check out Greta de Groat's Norma Talmadge website.)

Other rarities include a newly restored print of the recently found British-made 1934 melodrama Bella Donna, starring Conrad Veidt (as a sinister Easterner, what else?) and Mary Ellis; Wesley Ruggles' 1934 underworld drama Bolero, with George Raft, appropriately cast as an arrogant dancer, and Carole Lombard; Richard Wallace's 1936 newspaper farce Wedding Present, starring Cary Grant and Joan Bennett; and a “mint” print of James Whale's 1932 comedy-horror classic The Old Dark House - this is my favorite among the horror films of the 1930s - starring Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart (of Titanic fame), Boris Karloff, Raymond Massey, and with great supporting turns by Ernest Thesiger, Elspeth Dudgeon, and Eva Moore. It's quite funny at first, but the laughter will get stuck in your throat once the Old House grows as Dark as the minds of its residents.

And finally, René Clair's 1927 comedy classic Un chapeau de paille d'Italie / The Italian Straw Hat, a comedy of manners about a bridegroom who must find a replacement straw hat - for the one his horse has just eaten - so a bereaved bare-headed lady can regain her social composure. The film stars Albert Préjean, Alice Tissot, and Olga Tschechowa.

Update: Among the new additions to the Cinesation film line-up are The Grub Stake (1923), an adventure tale set among the Yukon gold mines, and starring pioneering female filmmaker Nell Shipman (who also wrote, co-produced, and co-directed - with Bert van Tuyle - the film); The Moonstone (1915), an early film version of William Wilkie Collins' delightful novel about the mysterious disappearance of an even more mysterious Indian diamond, directed by Frank Crane, and starring Eugene O'Brien and Elaine Hammerstein; and several early shorts featuring future (now mostly forgotten) megastars: Arms and the Gringo (1914), with Wallace Reid and Dorothy Gish; The Sign of the Cucumber (1917), with Eva Novak; Lonesome Luke's Lively Life (1917), with Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels; and Can You Beat It? (1915), with Constance Talmadge.

Cinesation will be held in Massillon, Ohio, from Sep. 28 to Oct. 1.

Jean Harlow Paul Bern mural
Jean Harlow & Paul Bern mural.

Jean Harlow in Elizabethan garb: Paul Bern's gift to his MGM-star wife

Jean Harlow is seen among various celebrities found on an oil-on-canvas mural created by Russian artist Alexander Ignatiev aka V. Ignatieff in the early 1930s. Lisa Burks, currently working on a biography of Best Actor Academy Award nominee Franchot Tone (Mutiny on the Bounty; also, Phantom Lady, Advise and Consent), has posted on her site a magazine copy of the mural.

The mural was reportedly a gift from MGM producer Paul Bern to his wife Jean Harlow. (If Bern and Harlow were indeed husband and wife at that time, then the gift was made between July and September 1932.) In Elizabethan garb, the blonde MGM star is seen at the center of the table, surrounded by the likes of fellow MGM players John Gilbert, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford; MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer; Shearer's husband and MGM's second-in-command Irving G. Thalberg; and director Edmund Goulding (Dark Victory, The Razor's Edge)

Also: Crawford's husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; screenwriter Willis Goldbeck (Scaramouche, Freaks); future Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick; Mayer's daughter and Selznick's wife Irene Mayer Selznick; married actors Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels; MGM screenwriter Carey Wilson (the 1925 Ben-Hur); writer-producer Gene Markey (among whose wives were Joan Bennett, Gene Tierney, and Hedy Lamarr); and baritone-turned-actor Lawrence Tibbett (Academy Award-nominated for The Rogue Song).

Paul Bern & Jean Harlow

A former screenwriter and director, among Paul Bern's movies as a producer were The Divorcee (1930), which earned Norma Shearer the 1929-30 Best Actress Academy Award; the Greta Garbo star vehicles Romance (1930) and Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931); Paid (1930), starring Joan Crawford; In Gay Madrid (1930), starring Ramon Novarro; West of Broadway (1931), starring John Gilbert; and the all-star Best Picture Academy Award winner Grand Hotel (1932), directed by Edmund Goulding, and starring Crawford, Garbo, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore.

Paul Bern killed himself in September 1932.

Among Jean Harlow's best-known movies are Hell's Angels (1929), Platinum Blonde (1931), The Public Enemy, Red Dust (1932), Red-Headed Woman (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Bombshell (1933), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), and Libeled Lady (1936).

At age 26, Jean Harlow died of uremic poisoning in 1937. Harlow's last movie, released posthumously, was Jack Conway's comedy Saratoga (1937), co-starring Clark Gable.

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